Why Memorize Scripture? Six Reasons.
- Monday, September 11, 2006
First, a few testimonies: I have it third hand, that Dr. Howard Hendricks (of Dallas Seminary) once made the statement (and I paraphrase) that if it were his decision, every student graduating from Dallas Theological Seminary would be required to learn one thousand verses word perfect before they graduated.
Dallas Willard, professor of Philosophy at the University of Southern California, wrote, "Bible memorization is absolutely fundamental to spiritual formation. If I had to choose between all the disciplines of the spiritual life, I would choose Bible memorization, because it is a fundamental way of filling our minds with what it needs. This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth. That's where you need it! How does it get in your mouth? Memorization" ("Spiritual Formation in Christ for the Whole Life and Whole Person" in Vocatio, Vol. 12, no. 2, Spring, 2001, p. 7).
Chuck Swindoll wrote, "I know of no other single practice in the Christian life more rewarding, practically speaking, than memorizing Scripture... No other single exercise pays greater spiritual dividends! Your prayer life will be strengthened. Your witnessing will be sharper and much more effective. Your attitudes and outlook will begin to change. Your mind will become alert and observant. Your confidence and assurance will be enhanced. Your faith will be solidified" (Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994], p. 61).
One of the reasons Martin Luther came to his great discovery in the Bible of justification by faith alone was that in his early years in the Augustinian monastery he was influenced to love Scripture by Johann Staupitz. Luther devoured the Bible in a day when people earned doctorates in theology without even reading the Bible. Luther said that his fellow professor, Andreas Karlstadt, did not even own a Bible when he earned his doctor of theology degree, nor did he until many years later (www.orlutheran.com/html/luthbibl.html). Luther knew so much of the Bible from memory that when the Lord opened his eyes to see the truth of justification in Romans 1:17, he said, "Thereupon I ran through the Scriptures from memory," in order to confirm what he had found.
So here are a few reasons why so many have viewed Scripture memorization as so essential to the Christian life.
1. Conformity to Christ
Paul wrote that "we all... beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another." If we would be changed into Christ likeness we must steadily see him. This happens in the word. "The LORD revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the LORD" (1 Samuel 3:21). Bible memorization has the effect of making our gaze on Jesus to be steadier and clearer.
2. Daily Triumph over Sin
"How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word... I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you" (Psalm 119:9, 11). Paul said that we must "by the Spirit... put to death the [sinful] deeds of the body" (Romans 8:13). The one piece of armor used to kill is the "sword of the Spirit," which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17). As sin lures the body into sinful action, we call to mind a Christ-revealing word of Scripture and slay the temptation with the superior worth and beauty of Christ over what sin offers.
3. Daily Triumph over Satan
When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness he recited Scripture from memory and put Satan to flight (Matthew 4:1-11).
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